I have just finished watching the first two episodes of BBC4’s Fossil Wonderlands: Nature’s Hidden Treasures presented by Professor Fortey. What can I say – they were wonderfully presented and interesting programmes presented by a man who has a passion for fossils.
The first episode, entitles ‘Weird Wonders’ examine fossils which are interesting but bizarre and include many marine mammals. Such creatures includes ones with many eyes, filter feeders shaped like tulips and worm like scavengers. Although these fossils may be slightly unusual they have been key to our understanding of the evolution of complex organisms and elements, such as the development of the eye.
The second episode looked at feathered dinosaurs. By examining these fossils an insight into the origins of birds and flight. This included looking at fossils of dinosaurs who were covered in tiny feathers but did not fly and those with wings and feathers for flight. From these individuals various hypothesises of how the origin of flight came about has been tested and examined. There are two current theories which suggests that flight originated either through animals gliding from the trees or by taking a running jump into the area.
I saw this programme on BBC iplayer and was intrigued by it as it was looking at fossils. As I have an interest in evolution, and therefore fossils, I was fairly interested in it. However, what made me sit down and watch the episodes was that it was presented by Professor Richard Fortey, a palaeontologist with a particular interest in trilobites. I am fairly certain that I would have come across some of his work whilst at university but it was a book that I read which made me see him as a good science communicator.
About year or two ago a received his book ‘Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum‘ as a birthday present. It was this book that really made me want to work at the NHM because of it’s descriptions of behind the scenes at the museum and work that goes on there. I think this book suddenly gave me an aspiration which I hadn’t had before. It made me realise that the museum wasn’t just important for storing specimens but also for research and educating the public. If you’re interested in the book read it’s review from the Telegraph here – hopefully it will convince you to get the book!
I would definitely recommend watching this series and reading the book – especially if ou have an interest in evolution and/or fossils.